in all my infinite wisdom

Category: environmental destruction


Need to Grow

The following was written by Y.M. Saegusa an Advocate for regenerative agriculture and environmentally sustainable living. Future homestead owner. Editor of AND borrowed from this site

Our Soil is Dying…, What Can We Do About It?

Soil is one of the least understood but most important requirements for sustainable agriculture

Photo by Tati y Adri on Unsplash

Soil is living. Soil contains living organisms such as worms, fungi, insects, and other organic matter.

A single handful of healthy soil contains more than 50 billion life forms. To put things in perspective, the global population currently sits at about 7.8 billion. Taking it one step further, approximately 117 billion humans were ever born. That means a little over two handfuls of healthy soil can contain more life forms than all humans that ever existed.

The life forms contained within soil, nutrients, and minerals all help plants grow healthier and nutrient-rich while increasing crop yield.

Topsoil is required to support 95% of our global nutritional requirements. This not only includes the crops that we eat but the plants that are fed to livestock. Without healthy soil, we are screwed.

Healthy soil also acts like a sponge, which absorbs and retains water. Soil free of chemicals and synthetic materials enables the water to reach the underground aquifer to replenish it without contaminating it.

Plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. The carbon captured during this process is stored in the soil. When soil degrades, carbon is released back into the atmosphere. Just within the European Union countries, approximately 75 billion tons of carbon is stored in the soil. When soil erodes, the carbon that is sequestered within the soil is released back into the atmosphere.

But our soil is dying…

The impact of industrial agriculture on soil health

According to some estimates, we’ve lost nearly half of productive topsoil in the last 150 years. Industrial-scale agriculture has contributed to the loss of naturally productive soil through unsustainable agricultural practices that are damaging to the soil and the environment.

One of which is monocropping, or the agricultural practice of growing the same crop over and over on the same plot of land. At the industrial scale, it’s efficient, maximizes crop yield, and returns higher revenues. Specializing at the industrial scale results in a farm that is easier to manage and costs less to operate. But does its benefits outweigh the impacts?

Growing crops this way results in depletion of the soil’s nutrients and reduces the level of organic matter in the soil. Monocropping yields may also decrease over time due to the soil being depleted of vital nutrients. Because plants require nutrients to grow, farmers must make up for deficiencies by applying chemical fertilizer.

Because only a single species is planted in a concentrated area, the plants are susceptible to pest predation and diseases, which are controlled using chemicals. Bactericides, fungicides, nematicides are all be applied to crops at various stages of growth to control diseases. Pesticides are also used to control insects.

During the off-season after harvest, the soil is left bare without a cover crop to hold the soil, contributing to soil erosion. With no roots to keep soil in place, soil can be lost due to wind or rain run-off.

The advancement of technology also means farmers can plant genetically modified crops. These crops are modified so that they are resistant to specifically formulated herbicides and pesticides. Farmers can spray the field to control insects and weeds without killing the crops. This practice destroys naturally beneficial organisms in the soil, which must be offset by applying synthetic fertilizers to replace the nutrients in the soil which plants require. Weeds and native plants which can control erosion are also killed by herbicides.

Remember this simple formula:

Created by the author on PowerPoint // CC0 1.0 — No CopyRight

Soil is alive. Dirt is dead. You cannot grow plants in dirt. Dirt does not contain any nutrients, minerals, or organic matter that are found in soil and is required to sustain plant life. Dirt does not support life on its own.

Monocropping, heavy use of chemical fertilizers, and chemical pesticides kill the soil gradually. Poor land management, extensive plowing and tilling, and replacing native plants with cash crops; all of these agricultural practices remove the vast network of roots and organic matter that keep soil healthy and moist, which prevents erosion.

The ground which is infused with various synthetic fertilizers and chemicals also puts at risk the groundwater. The same water that is used to water the crops.

What happens when you combine poor land management, dying soil, and extended bout of droughts (regardless of cause)? This:

Dust storm approaching northern Texax, April 14, 1935 — Photo Source: National Archives / Public Domain

There is precedence to all of this. Our country has been through it before. Let’s not go through it again.

What can we do about it?

There are alarming articles that can be found throughout the internet that claims there are only 60 years of topsoil left if current industrial agricultural practices are sustained. Anything found on the internet needs to be thoroughly questioned to ensure the veracity of the information before its accepted as fact.

But here is a fact. We have to feed the world. I care about the environment but I am also pragmatic. My family does its best to consume organic foods as much as possible, but some of what we eat are GMO or GMO derived. Organic food is expensive. It’s a luxury.

But we can grow our food without killing the soil. For farmers and homesteaders that choose to engage in sustainable agricultural techniques, there are options.

On-site composting to produce organic fertilizer is one option. We can control what goes into our compost pile, so we know that our fertilizer is 100% organic and natural. This compost can be applied to the soil to restore its health. Healthy soil does a better job at retaining moisture and produces healthier crops that are completely natural. Foliage and other bio-products generated by the farm can be fed back into the compost, making it sustainable.

Planting cover crops and using mulch on the field will help reduce soil erosion and runoff. Cover crops also reduce the impact of soil compaction, so that the soil actually absorbs and retains moisture.

We can minimize tilling and plowing because it kills the soil and the root structures that are holding it in place. These roots and fungi sequester carbon, which is released when the soil is disturbed needlessly.

We can plant insectary plants to create an eco-sphere that is inviting to beneficial insects. Insects like ladybugs, praying mantis, and even spiders all help mitigate the population of pests.

We can incorporate farm animals will also restore soil health. Some animals like fowls (duck, goose, chicken, etc.) can be used to control pests while producing manure and urine that naturally fertilizes the soil. Larger animals can help control weed and also produce manure and urine.

We can support local organic farmers by becoming a member of your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA — Link *not* an affiliate or advertisement) is also an option. My family is a member, and we receive a weekly box of organically grown produce from a local farm. Some CSAs may also provide organic meats and animal products as well. Our CSA offers tours and educational outreach (pre-Covid) along with recipes for uncommon and unique produce. And you are supporting a local farmer that engages in sustainable practices for farming.

For those who are not farmers and/or have no aspirations of homesteading as my family does, then being informed is a good first step. Know where your food comes from. By being informed, you can decide what you want to do with that knowledge.

Why is soil conservation important?

borrowed from
Soil conservation

Soil offers the firmament on which we live and develop. It gives nutrients to trees, plants, crops, animals, and a hundred million microorganisms, all of which are required for life to continue on Earth. If the soil becomes unsuitable or unstable, the entire process comes to a halt; nothing else can grow or break down. To avoid this, we must be aware of the beautiful ecosystem that exists beneath our feet. But what exactly is soil conservation, and how can we become involved?

What is soil conservation?

Soil contains nutrients that are necessary for plant growth, animal life, and millions of microorganisms. The life cycle, however, comes to a halt if the soil becomes unhealthy, unstable, or polluted. Soil conservation is concerned with keeping soils healthy through a variety of methods and techniques. Individuals who are committed to soil conservation assist to keep the soil fertile and productive while also protecting it from erosion and degradation.

Why is soil conservation important?

Conservation cropping systems rely heavily on soil conservation. There are numerous advantages for producers who opt to use soil conservation methods on their farms.

Profit Enhancement:

  • Yields are comparable to or higher than traditional tillage.
  • Cut down on the amount of fuel and labor used.
  • It requires less time.
  • Lowering the cost of machinery repair and maintenance.
  • Potential cost savings on fertilizer and herbicides.

Improved Environment:

  •       Increased soil productivity and quality.
  •       Less erosion.
  •       Increased infiltration and storage of water.
  •       Better air and water quality.
  •       Offers food and shelter to wildlife.

Soil Formation Factors

  •       Parent material refers to the rocks and deposits that formed the soil.
  •       The climate in which the soils formed.
  •       Living organisms that altered soils.
  •       The land’s topography or slope.
  •   The geological time span during which the soils have evolved (age of the soil).

Ten good reasons to practice soil conservation

The following are the top 10 reasons:

  1. Soil is not a renewable natural resource. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), forming a centimeter of soil might take hundreds to thousands of years. However, erosion can cause a single centimeter of soil to be lost in a single year.
  2. To maintain a steady supply of food at economical rates. Soil conservation has been shown to boost agricultural output quality and quantity over time by retaining topsoil and preserving the soil’s long-term productivity.
  3. Soil serves as the basis for our structures, roads, homes, and schools. In truth, the soil has an impact on how structures are constructed.
  4. Beneficial soil microbes live in soils; these creatures are nature’s unseen helpers. They develop synergistic interactions with plants, among other things, to protect them from stress and nourish them with nutrients.
  5. Soils remove dust, chemicals, and other impurities from surface water. This is why underground water is one of the purest water sources.
  6. Farmers benefit from healthier soils because they increase agricultural yields and protect plants from stress.
  7. To enhance wildlife habitat. Soil conservation methods such as establishing buffer strips and windbreaks, as well as restoring soil organic matter, considerably improve the quality of the environment for all types of animals.
  8. For purely aesthetic grounds. To make the scenery more appealing and gorgeous.
  9. To contribute to the creation of a pollution-free environment in which we can live safely.
  10. For our children’s future, so that they will have adequate soil to support life. According to legend, the land was not so much given to us by our forefathers as it was borrowed from our children.

Soil conservations practices

There are a variety of useful soil conservation measures available, some of which humans have used since the dawn of time. The following are some of the most common examples of such practices:

Conservation tillage

Conservation tillage is an agro management method that seeks to reduce the intensity or frequency of tillage operations in order to realize both environmental and economic benefits.

Conventional tillage refers to the traditional way of farming in which soil is prepared for planting by thoroughly inverting it with a tractor-pulled plow, followed by tilting further in order to level the surface of the soil for crop cultivation. Conservation tillage, on the other hand, is a tillage approach that reduces plowing intensity while keeping crop residue to conserve soil, water, and energy resources. Planting, growing, and harvesting crops with as little disturbance to the surface of the soil as feasible is what conserved tillage entails. 

Soil tillage promotes microbial decomposition of organic matter in the soil, resulting in CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. As a result, reducing tillage encourages carbon sequestration in the soil. Many crops can now be produced with minimal tillage thanks to advances in weed control technology and farm machinery over the previous few decades. There are several types of conservation tillage practices: 

Conservation tillage necessitates the management of crop remains on the soil surface. Crop residues, a renewable resource, are important in conservation tillage. When crop residues are managed properly, they protect soil resources, improve soil quality, restore degraded ecosystems, improve nutrient cycling, increase water conservation and availability, enhance pest suppression, such as weed and nematode suppression, reduce runoff and off-site nutrient leaching, and sustain and improve crop productivity and profitability. 

Conservation tillage can be used in conjunction with other measures to maximize the soil benefits of reduced tillage and increased soil-surface coverage.

Contour farming

Contour farming

Contour plowing lowers runoff while also assisting crops and soil in maintaining a steady altitude. It is accomplished by furrowing the land with contour lines between the crops. This strategy was used by the ancient Phoenicians and has been shown to retain more soil and enhance crop yields by 10% to 50%.

Strip cropping

Strip cropping

Strip cropping is a farming technique used when a slope is too steep or too long, or when there is no other way to prevent soil erosion. It alternates strips of closely planted crops like hay, wheat, or other small grains with strips of row crops like maize, soybeans, cotton, or sugar beets. Strip cropping helps to prevent soil erosion by providing natural dams for water, thus preserving soil strength. Certain plant layers absorb minerals and water from the soil more efficiently than others. When water hits the weaker soil, which lacks the minerals required to strengthen it, it usually washes it away. When strips of soil are strong enough to restrict the flow of water through them, the weaker topsoil cannot wash away as easily as it would ordinarily. As a result, arable land remains fertile for much longer.



Windbreaks are an excellent approach to reducing soil erosion in flat farming settings. This is made easier by planting rows of dense trees between the crops — evergreens are a wonderful year-round solution for this — or by planting crops in an unconventional fashion. Deciduous trees may also function if they can stand vigil all year. 

Crop rotation

Crop rotation is a fantastic strategy to combat soil infertility and has been used with great success for as long as there have been crops to grow. Crop rotation is regarded as excellent practice in organic farming by the Rodale Institute. Crop rotation is the technique of cultivating a variety of crops in the same location over the course of a growing season. The nutritional requirements of various crops vary. Because the crops are rotated each season, the approach decreases reliance on a single source of nutrients.  

Cover crops

Cover crops

Cover crops are an essential component of the stability of the conservation agriculture system, both for their direct and indirect effects on soil characteristics and for their ability to encourage enhanced biodiversity in the agro-ecosystem. 

While commercial crops have a market value, cover crops are mostly produced for soil fertility or as fodder for livestock. Cover crops are beneficial in areas where less biomass is produced, such as semi-arid (dry) areas and eroded soils, because they:

  • protect the soil during fallow periods
  • mobilize and recycle nutrients
  • enhance soil structure and break compacted layers as well as hardpans
  • allow for rotation in a monoculture
  • can be used to control pests, weeds, or break soil compactness

To make use of the moisture that is residual in the soil, cover crops are frequently grown during periods of fallow, such as the period between crop harvest and the next planting. Their growth is stopped before or after the next crop is planted, but prior to the rivalry between the two types of crops commences. Another excellent soil conservation method that reduces erosion from runoff water is the use of cover crops.

Buffer strips

Buffer strips

Buffer strips are permanently vegetated zones that safeguard water quality between a canal and a farm field. Buffer strips to aid in soil retention by slowing and sifting storm flow. As a result, the amount of hazardous phosphorus that enters our lakes may be minimized.

A buffer strip begins at the edge of the water and extends at least 30 feet inward towards the land, providing aesthetic surroundings and habitat for wildlife. Buffers aid in the retention of soils and can also be used to grow plants that can be gathered and used as animal feed. Buffers exist in a variety of shapes and sizes, including:

  • Harvestable buffer strips –These are crop buffers that can also be harvested later on for forage by farmers.
  • Contour buffer strip – utilized in sloped agricultural areas to prevent erosion and limit downhill precipitation velocity.
  • Shoreline gardens – a buffer between a manicured residential lawn and a lake

Benefits of buffers

  •       Less soil erosion – They aid in the retention of soil.
  •       Wildlife habitat – provides food and cover for wildlife.
  •       Protect and extend stream health – prevents loose silt from filling drainage ditches and streams.
  •       Streambank integrity – more vegetation stabilizes the stream bank
  •       Aesthetic appeal

Grassed waterways

Grassed waterways

Grassed waterways are shallow, broad, saucer-shaped pathways that carry surface water over fields without causing any erosion to the soil. The river’s plant cover tends to slow the flow of water and protects the channel surface from erosion forces induced by runoff water. If left alone, runoff and snowmelt water will drain into a field’s natural draws or drainage pathways. 

Grassed waterways securely move water down natural draws through fields when appropriately scaled and created. Waterways also serve as outlets for terrace systems, contour cropping patterns, and diversion channels. When the watershed area generating the runoff water is quite big, grassed rivers are a good solution to soil erosion caused by concentrated water flows. 

How it helps

  •   Grass cover protects the canal from gully erosion and captures sediment in runoff water.
  •   Vegetation can also filter and absorb some of the pollutants and nutrients in runoff water.
  •       Vegetation serves as a safe haven for little birds and animals.



Terracing is an agricultural process that involves rearranging cropland or converting hills into agriculture by building particular ridged platforms. Terraces are the name given to these platforms. 

Terrace farming is an efficient and, in many cases, the only solution for hilly farmlands. Terraces are a fantastic water and soil conservation structure to use if you have sloping fields in your operation to decrease soil erosion and conserve soil moisture on steep slopes. The types of terraces that can be employed (narrow-based, broad-based, or terrace channels) are adaptable to your demands and soil type, and they can be spaced based on erosion possibilities and equipment considerations. 

Terraces play a significant role in minimizing soil erosion by delaying and lowering the energy of runoff. Some terraces collect drainage water and redirect it underground rather than overland as runoff. If erosion is a major problem on sloping terrain, one option to explore is a terrace system to slow and manage surface runoff and prevent soil erosion. Once created, a terrace, like any conservation technique, demands hands-on monitoring and upkeep to ensure peak effectiveness. 

Drop inlets and rock chutes

Drop inlets and rock chutes

A drop inlet, also known as a shaft spillway, is made up of a vertical intake pipe and a horizontal underground conduit pipe. Water enters the vertical pipe at ground level and descends below, where it is safely channeled through a massive concrete, metal, or plastic pipe into a spillway such as a stream or ditch. 

A rock chute spillway is a construction that allows surface water to flow safely into an exit. This type of spillway aids in bank stabilization by reducing retrogressive erosion of waterway bottoms (furrows and ditches) and the production of erosional gullies in fields. This adaptable, low-cost, and effective construction is easily altered to the location and has minimal disadvantages for agricultural techniques. However, unlike a building with a sedimentation basin, it does not allow for water retention or the sedimentation of soil particles in runoff water. The rock chute spillway is used to alleviate erosion problems at the bottom of fields, at the outlet of a furrow, an interception channel, or a grassed waterway, or anywhere water flows into a stream. 

Drop inlets and rock chutes are frequently used to “step” water down where there are abrupt elevation changes, thus protecting soil from erosion.

Natural fertilizers

Livestock dung, mulch, municipal sewage, and legume plants such as alfalfa and clover are examples of natural fertilizers. Manure and sludge are put to the field by spreading it out and then kneading it into the soil. Timing applications must adhere to strict restrictions, as both sludge and manure can cause significant water contamination if managed improperly. Grown legumes like clover or alfalfa are subsequently tilled into the soil as “green fertilizer.”

Natural fertilizers, like chemical fertilizers, replenish the soil with important elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They do, however, have the added benefit of contributing organic matter to the soil. 

 Bank stabilization

 Bank stabilization

Bank stabilization refers to any technique used to keep soil in place on a bank or in a river. Here, the soil can be eroded by waves, stream currents, ice, and surface runoff.

Advantages of bank stabilization are decreased soil erosion, increased water quality, and a more aesthetically pleasing setting.

Gabion baskets, re-vegetation, and rip rap are three typical methods for controlling erosion at a stream or riverbank. The first two options rely on loose rock to preserve the underlying loose soil surface by cushioning the impact of stream water on the bank. The term “rip-rap” refers to loose rock on a steeply sloping bank. Riprap, on the other hand, can survive the rigors of ice and frost, whereas concrete may fracture. Gabion baskets are usually wire baskets filled with rocks. The wire baskets hold the rock in place. They are frequently used on steeper slopes and in regions where water flows quicker.

Planting along the shoreline might also help to stabilize stream banks. Shrubs, natural grasses, and trees slow the flow of water across the soil and trap silt, keeping it out of the water. 

Organic or ecological growing

Organic or ecological growing

Organic farming is a farming practice that includes ecologically based pest treatments and biological fertilizers obtained mostly from animal and plant wastes, as well as nitrogen-fixing cover crops. Modern organic farming evolved in response to the environmental damage caused by the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in conventional agriculture, and it offers significant ecological benefits.

Organic farming, when compared to conventional agriculture, utilizes fewer pesticides, lowers soil erosion, reduces nitrate leaching into groundwater and surface water, and recycles animal feces back into the farm. 

Sediment control

Similar to how agricultural soil erosion affects yields and plant growth, urban soil erosion reduces the possibility of healthy landscape plantings. This is especially true during urbanization when mass grading alters the natural soil profile and results in a large loss of topsoil. 

When soil is subjected to the effects of rainfall, the volume and velocity of runoff increase. This causes a chain reaction that results in sediment movement and deposition, lower stream capacity, and, eventually, increased stream scour and floods. 

Though temporary, erosion and sediment control methods safeguard water resources from sediment contamination and increases in flow caused by active land development and redevelopment activities. Sediment and related nutrients are kept from leaving disturbed regions and polluting waterways by keeping soil on-site. 

Erosion control measures are primarily aimed to minimize soil particle detachment and transportation, whereas sediment control practices are designed to confine eroding soil on-site. 

Integrated pest management

Pests are a huge nuisance for farmers and have been a major difficulty to deal with, while pesticides damage nature by leaking into the water and the atmosphere. It is critical to replace synthetic pesticides with organic ones wherever possible, to build biological enemies of pests whenever possible, to rotate crop types to avoid expanding insect populations in the same field for years and to use alternative strategies in complex situations. 

Integrated pest management (IPM) employs a number of strategies aimed at reducing the usage of chemical pesticides and, as a result, environmental hazards. Crop rotation is the foundation of IPM. Pests are starved out and less likely to establish themselves in harmful numbers the next year when crops are rotated from year to year. Crop rotation has been shown to be an effective pest management approach.

To control pest populations, IPM also employs pest-resistant crops and biological measures such as the discharge of pest predators or parasites.

Although IPM takes more time, the benefits of soil conservation, a better environment and lower pesticide expenditures are undeniable. 

Soil health by region

Farmers can utilize a range of measures to maintain the health of their soils. Some of these techniques include avoiding tilling the land, planting cover crops in between growing seasons, and switching the crop variety grown on each field. 

According to a recent study, soil health information is commonly oversimplified. Farms don’t all yield the same outcomes. While one technique may be advantageous to one person, it may be problematic for another depending on where they live. 

More specific trends in soil health are best observed and evaluated at the regional to the considerable diversity in landscape, inherent soil quality, and farming practices. Let’s take a look at soil specifics of Canadian provinces.

British Columbia

The need for soil protection varies substantially in British Columbia due to the wide range of cropping intensities. The greatest danger to soil conservation is posed by high-value specialty crops, as well as the heavy tillage and mechanical traffic that goes with them.

The bulk of BC’s agricultural land is under high to severe risk of water erosion when the soils are bare. In the Fraser Valley, this is due to heavy rainfall and some steep cultivated slopes; in the Peace River region, it is due to easily eroded silty soils and vast fields with lengthy slopes at the foot of which melted snow runoff collects and washes soil away. Conservation efforts, however, have considerably reduced these dangers over the previous several decades.

Prairie Provinces

Many arable soils on the plains and grasslands are subject to wind erosion and salinization as a result of the strains of a dry climate. Vulnerable soils are also prone to water erosion, especially following summer storms or spring runoff. Severe wind erosion prompted the establishment of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration in 1935, which took quick and extreme measures to address the problem.   When wind erosion became more widespread, efforts were reintroduced to encourage the use of soil conservation practices from the mid-20th century onwards.

Improvements can be attributed to reduced use of summer fallow and increasing use of conservation tillage and other erosion controls, such as permanent grass cover and shelterbelts. The risk of soil salinity has decreased in some areas due to greater use of permanent vegetation cover and less frequent use of summer fallow.

Ontario and Québec

Crops such as corn and soybeans are abundantly cultivated in central Canada. These crops are planted early and harvested late because they require the longest growing season possible. The soil is frequently moist while these processes are carried out, resulting in the compaction of the soil. Moreover, these plants may lead to inadequate soil protection from rain and snowmelt erosion for prolonged periods of the year.

Soil conservation practices like minimum and no-tillage retain crop residues on the surface of the soil and reduce heavily loaded mechanical activity. Crop rotation and the regular use of clover or alfalfa hay crops increase soil organic matter, culminating in a better soil structure and less stress. Manure and an adequate amount of fertilizer have a similar impact. Seeding places where runoff water collects to generate grassed streams also helps to reduce soil erosion.

Wind erosion is rarely a problem, and it is usually restricted to locations where the soil is sandy or contains organic material (e.g., cultivated marshes). Windbreaks can be established in these sites by planting rows of trees or bushes, and agricultural leftovers can be retained on the surface of the ground to protect the soils from wind erosion.

Atlantic Canada

The soils in none of the four Atlantic Provinces are very productive. The soils are frequently depleted by nature and are often acidic. The intensive cultivation of vegetable crops and potatoes has further lowered organic matter levels, harmed soil structure, and resulted in severe soil erosion on sloping grounds.

Farmers are combating these concerns by utilizing soil conservation techniques. Terraces, which are regular canals created across hills, are becoming more popular in the potato-growing areas of New Brunswick. By decreasing the length of the slopes, the terraces limit runoff water buildup. They transport the water to the field’s edge. They also encourage farmers to plant crop rows across the slope rather than up and down the hill, which ultimately reduces soil erosion caused by runoff. Crop rotation is another method of soil conservation in which potatoes are planted alternately with cereal crops (such as clover and barley). Grassed rivers are also employed in regions where water pools naturally, decreasing the danger of erosion carving gullies through the soil. In this region, the usage of significant amounts of fertilizer for the potato crop frequently raises soil acidity. Farmers apply ground limestone to the soil and mix it using plowing tools to regulate soil acidity.

To Sum Up

Conserving soil is a major concern for individuals, farmers and businesses because it is critical not only to use land productively and provide high yields but also to be able to do so in the future. Even though the impacts of soil conservation might not be visible in the short term, they will be beneficial to future generations. By integrating various methods of pest and weed control, different ways of soil conservation help to prevent erosion, maintain fertility, avoid deterioration, as well as reduce natural pollution caused by chemicals. Therefore, soil conservation initiatives provide a great contribution to the long-term viability of the environment and its resources.

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Humans are causing life on Earth to vanish

By Tammana Begum

Ecosystems, the fabric of life on which we all depend, are declining rapidly because of human actions. But there is still time to save them.

Human pressure on nature has soared since the 1970s. We have been using more and more natural resources, and this has come at a cost.

If we lose large portions of the natural world, human quality of life will be severely reduced and the lives of future generations will be threatened unless effective action is taken.

Over the last 50 years, nature’s capacity to support us has plummeted. Air and water quality are reducing, soils are depleting, crops are short of pollinators, and coasts are less protected from storms.

Prof Andy Purvis, a Museum research leader, has spent three years studying human interactions with nature. Alongside experts from more than 50 different countries, he has produced the most comprehensive review ever of the worldwide state of nature, with a summary published in the journal Science.

It was coordinated by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent body that provides policymakers with objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity.

The latest report paints a shocking picture. We are changing nature on a global scale and the impacts of our actions are being distributed unequally.

‘It was terrifying to see how close we are to playing Russian roulette with the only world we have,’ says Andy. ‘But it’s also been inspiring, because there is a way out of this.

‘What has given hope to the many scientists who worked on this report has been the way the public are fully aware of the dangers and want action. We just need to make sure the politicians remember that too.’

A diagram showing the risk of extinction in different groups
A diagram from the report showing the risk of extinction in different groups of species, assuming that species with limited or no data are equally threatened as other species in their taxonomic group.  

Nature feeling the squeeze

Since the 1970s, Earth’s population has doubled, and consumption has increased by 45% per capita.

The world is increasingly managed in a way that maximises the flow of material from nature, to meet rising human demands for resources like food, energy and timber.

As a result, humans have directly altered at least 70% of Earth’s land, mainly for growing plants and keeping animals. These activities necessitate deforestation, the degradation of land, loss of biodiversity and pollution, and they have the biggest impacts on land and freshwater ecosystems.

About 77% of rivers longer than 1,000 kilometres no longer flow freely from source to sea, despite supporting millions of people.

The main cause of ocean change is overfishing, but 66% of the ocean’s surface has also been affected by other processes like runoff from agriculture and plastic pollution.

Live coral cover on reefs has nearly halved in the past 150 years and is predicted to disappear completely within the next 80 years. Coral reefs are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.  

The number of alien species – species found outside their natural range – has risen, as humans move organisms around the world, which disrupts and often diminishes the richness of local biodiversity. This, combined with human-driven changes in habitat, also threatens many endemic species.

In addition, fewer varieties of plants and animals are being preserved due to standardisations in farming practices, market preferences, large-scale trade and loss of local and indigenous knowledge.

Nature also benefits humans in non-material ways. We learn from it and are inspired by it. It gives us physical and psychological experiences and supports our identity and sense of place. But its capacity to provide these services has also diminished.

What’s causing it?

The loss of ecosystems is caused mainly by changes in land and sea use, exploitation, climate change, pollution and the introduction of invasive species.

Some things have a direct impact on nature, like the dumping of waste into the ocean.

Other causes are indirect. Those include demographic, economic, political and institutional arrangements underpinned by social values, and they interact with one another.

For example, vast areas of land managed by Indigenous Peoples are experiencing a decline in ecosystems at a slower rate than everywhere else. But the rights of Indigenous Peoples are being threatened, which could result in faster deterioration of these areas. This would have a detrimental impact on wider ecosystems and societies.

A bleached reef
Coral reefs are bleaching at an unprecedented rate  

Trading overseas has increased by 900% since the start of the post-industrial era and the extraction of living materials from nature has risen by 200%.

The growing physical distance between supply and demand means people don’t see the destruction caused by their consumption.

‘Before the Industrial Revolution, people had to look after the environment around them because that’s where they got their products from,’ says Andy. ‘If they didn’t look after it, they would face the consequences.

‘Now with globalisation, we have massive environmental impacts a long way from where we live. But we are insulated from these impacts, so they are abstract to us.’

Overseas trading also creates and increases inequality. The pressure for material goods comes mostly from middle and high-income countries and is often met by low to middle-income countries.

For example, Japan, US and Europe alone consumed 64% of the world’s imports of fish products. High income countries have their own fisheries but most of these have collapsed. Fishing now takes place in previously unexploited or underexploited fisheries, most of which belong to low-income countries.

‘With the massive increase in trade, there is no longer that imperative to make sustainable choices,’ says Andy. ‘We can overexploit natural resources somewhere else in the world and the magnitudes of our choices are invisible to us.’

What does the future hold?

The report analysed in detail how the world will look under three very different scenarios.

  1. Global sustainability: the whole world shifts towards sustainability by respecting environmental boundaries and making sure economic development includes everyone. Wealth is distributed evenly, resources and energy are used less, and emphasis is on economic growth and human wellbeing.
  2. Regional competition: there is a rise in nationalism with the focus mostly on domestic issues. There is less investment in education, particularly in the developing world. High-income countries will continue exporting the damage, resulting in some strong and lasting environmental destruction for future generations to deal with.
  3. Economic optimism: the world puts faith in new and innovative technologies that are still to be invented, which help us cope with environmental problems. Emissions will continue, but with the idea that technology will mitigate them. There will be stronger investment in health and education, and global markets are reasonably integrated with shared goals.

Combating the loss of ecosystems is going to be complex and will require a nexus approach. This means thinking about how different components of the problem such as nature, politics and socioeconomics all interact with one another.

An example of a nexus approach would be to reduce biodiversity loss by changing how we farm, while at the same time making sure people have enough food, their livelihoods are not undermined, and social conflicts are not aggravated.

The way to avoid some of these issues may be to focus on regenerating and restoring high-carbon ecosystems such as forests and wetlands. Similarly the need for food could be met by changing dietary choices and reducing waste.

Switching to clean energy is an important step which would allow other changes to happen more easily. Obtaining coal and gas involves destroying vast amounts of land and seascapes as well as polluting the environment beyond extraction.

But in order to achieve this fully, the world needs to revaluate current political structures and societal norms, which tend not to value nature. One way of doing that is by improving existing environmental policies and regulations, as well as removing and reforming harmful policies.

‘I hope people can see that this is not a drill,’ says Andy. ‘This really is an emergency and I hope they act on it.’

The Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have decided that the IPBES Global Assessment Report will form the scientific and technical evidence base for the intergovernmental negotiations in 2020, to agree on a global biodiversity framework for the next decade and to replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that expire next year.

IPBES Chair Anna Maria Hernandez concludes, ‘This new article makes it even more clear that we need profound, system-wide change and that this requires urgent action from policymakers, business, communities and every individual.

‘Working in tandem with other knowledge systems, such as Indigenous and local knowledge, science has spoken, and nobody can say that they did not know. There is literally no time to waste.’

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Live Export is Cruel and Heinous


Blogger opinion: I always use root cause analysis for every problem/issue and if you could read this post in its entirety and continue in what is the root of this, eating meat and being part of the supply and demand for animals flesh there is something very wrong within your soul.

most of the information on this post borrowed from Please support them.

What’s it like on board a live export ship?

What's it like on board a live export ship?

An experienced live export vet has given ABC’s 7.30 a glimpse into the conditions endured by animals on live export ships — and it’s not a pretty picture.

Animals at this stocking density are not able to all lie down at onceIn addition to the stress of the unfamiliar environment, noise, and constant ship movement, at the typical high stocking density of a long haul voyage, it is not usually possible for all animals to lie down naturally at the same time. Stocking densities allowed by Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL) are much higher than any land-based feedlot or intensive housing system.


Not enough sawdust is provided for all animals to have soft bedding to lie on

Adequate sawdust or other soft bedding to rest on is not available to cattle on board a live export ship. Some sawdust provisions are required but they are not nearly sufficient, leaving animals traveling on hard, non-slip surfaces which can often result in painful abrasions, lameness, and injury. Australian standards only indicate that bedding should be replaced “as necessary” leaving this decision in the hands of exporters.

Animals are often coated with faeces by the end of the journey

The build-up of wet feces on live export ships can lead to cattle becoming coated in excrement. Apart from being distressing and unhygienic, fecal coated cattle cannot dispel heat through their body surface and are at greater risk of heat stress.


Changes in temperature can cause suffering and death for animals

Heat stress is a constant risk on live export ships. Animals suffering from heat stress literally cook from the inside out — they can suffer for days as their organs shut down one by one. In 2013, more than 4,000 Australian sheep died on board the Bader III as temperatures in the Gulf soared — turning the ship they were traveling on into a floating oven. 


Non-slip cleating makes for an uncomfortable surface for animals to lie on
Ship floors are often covered in non-slip ‘cleating’ (as pictured) which doesn’t allow sheep and cattle to rest comfortably. This can cause abrasions and lameness which may lead to septicemia.


Non-slip cleating makes for an uncomfortable surface for animals to lie on
This animal has slipped and is unable to rise. His hind legs are covered in abrasions and left hoof appears to be bloodied. Hoof damage, painful skin abrasions, and lameness are common onboard live export vessels due to the abrasive deck surface and inadequate drainage.

Not enough sawdust is provided for all animals to have soft bedding to lie on
Cattle are also at risk of injury from slipping into open drain holes in the ship’s deck which drain water and fecal matter into the deck below.


Open wounds are at risk of infection
Untreated, open wounds are at risk of infection and septic cellulitis from exposure to feces and urine. Skin abrasions often go unnoticed as they are covered by fecal matter. Infections can be so painful that an animal will refuse to rise, which in turn stops them from feeding and drinking and leaves them lying in their own feces.


Animals are at high risk of disease

High stocking densities, high levels of ammonia, and the stressful and unfamiliar conditions onboard ships can result in animals failing to eat (resulting in death), eye infections, heat stress, salmonellosis, and pneumonia.


Contaminated food and water can lead to animals not eating and drinking properly
Dirty pens filled with dirty cattle unsurprisingly lead to dirty water and feed troughs, contaminated with urine and feces. This can result in animals suffering from dehydration and not getting enough food.


Rough seas increase risk of injury and sickness
Rough seas and unexpected weather put animals at increased risk of injury and seasickness.

Anything could go wrongMechanical failure In 2014, the livestock ship Ocean Drover caught fire.

Live export has a history of disasters that have been devastating for animals – ventilation problems, engine failure and even fire have caused suffering and fatalities. Every journey runs the risk of something going wrong and animals are the ones to pay the price.


Animals are at risk of being smothered when they fall asleep
Cattle have been known to lie down for long periods of time when the decks are cleaned and new sawdust is laid. Dr. Simpson states this is a result of exhaustion and fatigue from animals reluctant to lie down in their own feces not getting sufficient respite. Due to the lack of space onboard, animals are at risk of being smothered, injured, or repeatedly disturbed by others as they attempt to rest.


Animals born at sea are generally euthanised
This calf’s mother was pregnant when she boarded a ship to Mauritius. She was killed immediately after she was born.

Animals are often not properly tested for pregnancy before boarding and that has led to cows and ewes giving birth at sea. Animals who go into labour on live export ships are not often given the additional space and care that they need, and their young may be trampled or injured. As the calves or lambs will likely be killed (usually for commercial reasons) the new mothers’ risk of mastitis is significantly increased.


Mortalities on board can be in the hundreds
This animal weighed more than 700 kg and should never have been loaded on a live export vessel. He wore down his toes, knees and joints so much that he eventually refused to stand and was euthanised.

Australian standards specify that no animal weighing more than 650 kg should be loaded on board a live export vessel. But some exporters have ignored these guidelines and loaded heavier animals, like the bull pictured, risking their lives. In Dr Simpson’s report to the government, she warned that any animal over 500 kg has an increased risk of injury. 

Incredibly, government regulations allow a mortality rate of 2% of sheep and 1% of cattle on every voyage — which means hundreds, if not thousands, of animals can die at sea without any investigation into the cause.


This industry entails unnecessary pain and suffering for all the animals involved within it. Anyone who tells you different is either ill-informed, they’re a liar or they’re staying silent for fear of losing their job.

Dr Lynn Simpson, veterinarian

For as long as this cruel trade in living beings exists — we remain as committed as ever to sparing animals from falling victim to it. Will you join us?

Please spare 1 minute now to lend your voice to the animals — and help create a world free from the horror of live export.

Take action now »

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These Ingredients are Banned in Almost Every Country in the World BUT the United States WHY?

reblogged from

Below are some of the most commonly used food ingredients and practices that are allowed in the United States, but banned elsewhere.

Banned Ingredients #1 — Dough Conditioners

Dough conditioners, such as potassium bromate and azodicarbonamide are chemicals used to improve the strength and texture of bread dough. Dough conditioners are often found in white breads, rolls, and “egg breads.” However, they are possible human carcinogens (potassium bromate is classified as a category 2B carcinogen). And exposure to them is known to cause respiratory sensitivity, such as asthma or other breathing difficulty. As such, potassium bromate is banned in China, India, Brazil, the European Union, and Canada. And azodicarbonamide is banned in Australia and Europe.

Banned Ingredients #2 — Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO)

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) was originally patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant. But now, BVO can be found in certain colorful sports drinks and citrus-flavored sodas as an emulsifier. Studies have shown that BVO isn’t harmless. It actually accumulates in human tissue, as well as breast milk, and can cause memory loss over time. Bromine toxicity can lead to skin rashes, appetite loss, and heart problems, as well as major organ damage and birth defects. Bromine also competes with iodine for receptor sites in the body, which can increase risk for iodine deficiency, autoimmune disease, and even certain cancers. And although BVO has been banned in countries like Japan, it’s been used in food and beverages in American since 1977 when it was approved by the FDA.

Banned Ingredients #3 — Propylparaben

In the United States, propylparaben is used as a preservative in tortillas, muffins, trail mix, pies, sausage rolls, and more. Research has found that it can affect sex hormones and sperm counts in young rats. Cornell University research had also indicated that exposure to parabens may be linked to breast cancer. Environmental Working Group senior scientist Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., tells us, “It is of great concern to us that the use of an endocrine-disrupting chemical in our food is considered safe by our own government… Studies show that chemicals that disrupt hormone signaling can lead to developmental and reproductive problems.” Propylparaben is totally legal in the U.S., but in 2006 the European Food Safety Authority banned the use of propylparaben in food. And in 2015, the EU went further – also banning propylparaben from cosmetic products.

Banned Ingredients #4 — BHA and BHT

BHA and BHT are popular man-made antioxidants used in dry mixes, cereals, and dehydrated potato products to preserve them and increase shelf life. They’re also found in product packaging. These are possible carcinogens and endocrine disruptors — meaning that they can alter the normal function of your hormones and lead to disease. BHA and BHT are banned for use in food and beverages by the United Kingdom, European Union, Japan, and other countries.

Banned Ingredients #5 — Synthetic Food Dyes

Food manufacturers use synthetic food dyes, such as blue 2, yellow 5, and red 40, to enhance the coloring of certain foods and ingredients to make them more appealing to consumers. Some foods that contain food dyes include beverages (like juices, sports drinks, and sodas), candy, and glazes used in baked goods and sweets. They’re even used in silly things like making mustard more yellow, salmon more pink, and jarred pickles the perfect shade of yellow-green. And don’t even get me started on maraschino cherries!

Research has linked consumption of synthetic dyes to an increased risk for numerous conditions, like tumors and hyperactivity in children. What’s even more infuriating is that the U.S. used to use natural food dyes until the mid-19th century. But then, food manufacturers realized it was much cheaper to use chemicals, which turned food even brighter colors.

Synthetic food dyes are banned in Europe and Australia, where more natural coloring compounds are used. For example, in most of the world, Fanta contains actual fruit juice and is dyed naturally. But Americans enjoy Fanta colored with petroleum-derived artificial dyes like red 40 and yellow 6.

Banned Ingredients #6 — GMOs

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been around since the 1980s. But they have become a controversial topic — and for good reason. While they’re widespread in the U.S. — with most U.S. soy, sugar beets, corn, canola, cotton, and alfalfa being GMO crops — many European countries have banned or regulated them due to public safety concerns.

One common genetic manipulation involves altering DNA in certain crops to make them resistant to herbicides. One of the most common herbicides used in conjunction with these GMOs is glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup. Glyphosate consumption is linked to cancer. In fact, several people have won cases that allege glyphosate caused their cancer. Bayer, the manufacturer of Roundup, is currently fighting cancer lawsuits that involve over 13,000 people. As of June 2019, there were bans or major restrictions on use of glyphosate in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. 

Banned Ingredients #7 — Roxarsone

The arsenic-based drug roxarsone, was routinely used in chicken in the U.S. until July 2011, when Pfizer decided to stop selling it. However, there is no actual ban on the use of arsenic in the raising of chickens for food. Roxarsone was used to increase the pink coloring of raw chicken meat, to speed the growth of the birds before slaughter, and to prevent parasites in the chicken’s stomach. Research shows chronic exposure to arsenic can lead to anemia, skin lesions, kidney damage. It can also increase the risk for certain cancers, miscarriage, and birth defects. The European Union banned the use of arsenic-based drugs, while many chicken products in the U.S. still contain it.

Banned Ingredients #8 — Ractopamine

In the U.S., ractopamine is a muscle enhancer for pigs, cows, and turkeys. And, like other harmful substances used during the raising of animals, it doesn’t just go away when the animal is slaughtered. Some of it is still left in the meat you buy. Ractopamine is banned in 122 countries including Russia, mainland China, Taiwan, and many countries across Europe. This is because it’s been linked to reproductive and cardiovascular damage in humans, as well as chromosomal and behavioral changes.

Banned Ingredients #9 — Herbicides, Insecticides, Fungicides

Herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides are widely used on crops in the U.S. food system to keep them free of bugs and diseases. Meanwhile, other countries see (and act on) the danger they pose to humans. Of the 374 active ingredients authorized for agricultural use in the U.S. in 2016, the European Union banned 72 of them. Wow.

Banned Ingredients #10 — Olestra

Olestra, or Olean, is a cholesterol-free fat substitute created by Procter & Gamble. The FDA approved it for use in foods in the 1990s and it’s still used in certain potato chips and french fries. But Olestra may cause extremely unpleasant digestive reactions, like diarrhea and leaky bowels. Consuming a lot of it can also lead to deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, as well as carotenoids. Both Canada and the United Kingdom have banned the ingredient.

Banned Ingredients #11 — Synthetic Hormones

Synthetic hormones, such as rBGH and rBST, are widely used in the U.S. dairy industry. The primary reason for this is to increase milk production in dairy cows. However, rBGH increases IGF-1 levels in humans and may increase the risk of developing cancer. Additionally, cows treated with rBGH are more likely to develop mastitis, an udder infection, requiring treatment with antibiotics. Canadathe EU, and other countries have banned these compounds.

What You Can Do

The question you might be asking right now is, what can I do to protect myself from these banned ingredients? While we can’t immediately control what food companies put in their products, we don’t have to eat them. And there are steps you can take to make healthier, safer food choices, wherever you live.

Here are some things you can do to make sure the food you eat is as safe as possible:

  • Read all food labels carefully. Get familiar with these banned ingredients and their alternative names, and look for them on packaged foods.
  • Eat minimally processed or, even better, whole, organic foods as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains won’t have the long list of ingredients that packaged and processed foods often do.
  • Cook at home as much as you can. This way, you have more control over the food you’re eating. You know exactly what ingredients are being used, and can decide to eat foods that best align with your values as much as possible.
  • Say no to GMOs and to the products of factory farms.
  • Sign petitions. This is a great way to get involved in public policy, and you don’t even have to leave your house. One of my favorite places to find and sign petitions is the Center for Food Safety website.

The good news is, you don’t have to wait for the U.S. FDA or USDA to change policy for you to make informed choices about what you eat and feed to your family. Every bite you take is a chance to take a stand for a safer and healthier life.

As much as we would like to believe that everything on store shelves is delicious, good for us, and safe, the truth is not always so reassuring. In fact, the food supply in the U.S. (and many other nations, too) is full of chemical flavorings, additives, colorings, and other ingredients that you may not want to put in your body. Before we start naming names, let’s explore how the U.S. government could let this happen. 

For starters, the FDA states that food companies can market new chemicals and food additives WITHOUT FDA oversight or approval, so long as “the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe… ” 

This is known as the GRAS system, and it might sound all well and good. But what makes someone a “qualified expert”? And how are they able to determine which chemicals food companies can add to the food we feed our children? It turns out that these companies often convene their own “expert” panels to decide whether the ingredient will pose harm. And many of these panels contain scientists with financial ties to all manner of industries – even including the tobacco industry (“experts” who may have, at one time, recommended that cigarettes were safe!). Based on the panel’s recommendations, companies then decide whether or not to share the results of the assessment with the FDA. They don’t even have to do so! 

Most of the chemicals on the GRAS list have never had long-term testing on humans, and therefore can’t possibly be guaranteed safe. And some of them don’t stand up to the test of time, either. For example, BHA is “generally recognized as safe” – despite the fact that the National Institutes of Health’s National Toxicology Program concluded that BHA can be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” 

And then there are artificial trans fats, which have historically been on the GRAS list and added to foods like frozen pizza, peanut butter, packaged snack foods, vegetable shortenings, and ready-to-use frostings to improve their flavor, texture, and shelf life. Unfortunately, we later learned that trans fats were causing upwards of 500,000 deaths per year from associated heart disease.

In 2015, the FDA finally decided that trans fats, or partially hydrogenated oils, were unsafe, giving food manufacturers a few years to remove them from the food supply. Since the ban took place, many food companies have replaced trans fats with ingredients like palm oil instead, which comes with its own set of concerns.

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